ELKINS - American Legion Auxiliary Rhododendron Girls State opened Sunday at Davis & Elkins College with a keynote address from U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito and welcoming remarks from organizers and local leaders. The week’s theme, “Embrace the Magic of New Beginnings,” resonated throughout the Opening Assembly in Myles Center for the Arts Harper-McNeeley Auditorium.
More than 300 female rising high school seniors from West Virginia will spend the week immersed in educational sessions focused on government, and participate in a mock election process and activities that pay tribute to the nation’s veterans.
The citizens, as they are known for the week, were welcomed by D&E President Chris A. Wood, who asked them to ponder their education beyond high school. In emphasizing the College’s commitment to educating future leaders, he announced the Rhododendron Girls State Scholarship at D&E – a $5,000 per year award available to each of the participants.
The group is the first to attend Rhododendron Girls State at Davis & Elkins. They were also welcomed by American Legion Auxiliary Rhododendron Girls State Director Michelle Sirbaugh and Assistant Director Dr. Rosemary Thomas, who also serves as Vice President for Enrollment Management and Institutional Advancement at D&E.
Capito told the group that Girls State is about building relationships and building confidence that will help carry them through life.
The daughter of former U.S. Congressman and West Virginia Gov. Arch Moore, Capito said she grew up attending political functions, but wasn’t always sure her career path would lead in that direction. In college she majored in zoology, but later realized she wanted to help people and make an impact on their lives.
Now as the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate in West Virginia, a former U.S. congresswoman and creator of the West Virginia Girls Rise Up program, Capito said she enjoys making a difference in big and small ways. She encouraged the newest citizens of Girls State to engage themselves in the week’s activities and step out of their comfort zone to learn about citizenship or fighting for a cause.
“If you don’t want to be the leader out front, be a part of that support group to move the issue you care about because that’s just as important,” Capito said. “Really dig in and enjoy the week. It will make an impact on your life. Be that West Virginia woman leader and have that confidence to say, ‘these problems look big, but we can solve these things because we can do it together.’”
Twenty-second Circuit Family Court Judge and D&E alumna Lori Haynes conducted an official swearing in ceremony for the citizens and asked them to make three promises – to behave as if this is the day you will be remembered, help other women succeed and laugh every day.
Also addressing the group were American Legion Auxiliary Department President Lisa Cadwallader, American Legion Department Commander Frank Cooley, Girls State Governor Sydney West and Rhett Dusenbury, representative for U.S. Congressman Alex Mooney.
Related to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Davis & Elkins College is located in Elkins, 2 hours east of Charleston, 3 hours south of Pittsburgh and 4 hours west of Washington, D.C. For more information, please visit the College website at www.dewv.edu or call 304-637-1243.
Photo Caption: U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, left, greets Girls State Governor Sydney West. Capito served as the keynote speaker for American Legion Auxiliary Rhododendron Girls State Opening Assembly at Davis & Elkins College. Photo by Josh Triggs, 3MI Photography.